Belgium and Germany to push for railway 'Steel Rhine' reopening

Flanders and North Rhine-Westphalia continue to push for the reopening of the Steel Rhine, a dedicated freight rail link between the port of Antwerp and Germany's Ruhr region, via the Netherlands. The energy crisis could advance the negotiations.

Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany have been trying for years to reach an agreement on the reopening of this line, renamed 3XR. But the Netherlands have always been reluctant to do so because the old line crossed a national park and a new line would be too expensive. Behind the scenes, the port of Rotterdam would also resist the idea because it would strengthen the port of Antwerp. 

A new cost-benefit study was finally launched last year. This should be completed by the end of the year or early next year.

"We are on the same wavelength. Both Flanders and North Rhine-Westphalia are hoping for a breakthrough," Jan Jambon said on Wednesday after his meeting with Oliver Krischer, Rhineland's transport minister, as part of a two-day economic mission by the Flemish Minister-President to Germany.

The energy crisis could contribute to the progress of the file. With the cut off of Russian gas, Germany needs liquefied natural gas (LNG) which will have to be transported massively, in particular via rail links like the Rhine of steel. The demand for LNG could become so great that Germany would have to call on Antwerp and Rotterdam, which could ease the reluctance of the Netherlands. The Iron Rhine issue will be on the table at a meeting between Jambon and the Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte later this fall.



© BELGA PHOTO (DIRK WAEM) Flemish Minister President Jan Jambon and North Rhine-Westphalia Minister-President Hendrik Wust pictured during the second day of a diplomatic meeting between Flanders and the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, 8 September 2022.

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